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las-vegas-review-journalIn Protecting parents who serve (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 5/1/11), Fathers and Families Executive Director Glenn Sacks lays out the case for AB 313 and SB 284, bills to address many of the problems faced by Nevada's active duty and reserve service members. The bills, sponsored by Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams, D-Las Vegas, and Senator Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, are modeled in part on AB 2416, which we helped pass in California last year, and we worked with a Department of Defense Liaisons Office legislative representative on the bills prior to their introduction. To comment on the piece, click here. In the Review-Journal, Sacks writes:
There are six central reforms which advocates for military parents have been working to implement legislatively since 2005: prohibiting permanent custody orders for deployed parents; making temporary orders revert back after deployment; prohibiting deployment from being used as a factor in custody determination; allowing guardianship or visitation to be delegated when appropriate; holding expedited and/or electronic hearings for deployed parents; and extending military parent protections to National Guard and Reserves. AB313 and SB284 achieve all six of these objectives. Since 2005, more than three dozen states have passed military parent child custody legislation. Nevada is not one of them. No mother or father should ever be disadvantaged in a child custody or Family Court proceeding because they serve. With America fighting two wars and the divorce rate among military families running high, Nevada's service members need AB313 and SB284.
 Read Sacks' full piece here.

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It looks like good sense is finally going to prevail in the Phoebe Prince cases. Prince of course was the South Hadley, Massachusetts girl who committed suicide in January of 2010.  Her parents had recently divorced and Phoebe had moved with her mother to the Boston area from their native Ireland while her dad stayed behind.  She was being treated for depression at the time of her suicide. What's also true is that she'd gotten crossways with several kids at South Hadley High School, apparently over one or more boys.  That got her targeted by them with epithets like "Irish slut" and others.  She was shunned by the group and made the butt of various jokes and barbs. Then, tragically, she hanged herself. In most cases, that would have been treated for what it was - a terrible tragedy, the senseless taking of a beautiful young life.  Parents, relatives, friends and classmates would have mourned.  And then they would have gotten on with their lives. But not in this case.  No, Phoebe Prince's death became a cause célèbre, primarily because of the grandstanding of the local District Attorney, Elizabeth Scheibel.  She decided that the bullying Phoebe endured was more than the thoughtless, cruel behavior that countless teenagers engage in.  She thought it was criminal. So she brought felony and misdemeanor charges against six of the students based largely on laws meant to address hate crimes.  The key word was "Irish," you understand. Somehow Scheibel wanted people to believe that there was enough of a connection between the kids' bad behavior and Phoebe's suicide to warrant the involvement of the criminal courts. To many, myself included, that seemed like a complete overreaction.  Yes, what the kids did was insensitive and hurtful, but it's done by millions of children every year and is in fact part of growing up.  Kids coming out of their shells and becoming adult, social beings is often not a pretty sight, but it's a necessary one. What those young people did to Phoebe Prince was wrong because it was hurtful.  But it was a moral wrong, not a legal one.  It wasn't criminal. Profiles in Cowardice:  Having splashed the matter all over the headlines and posed as the fearless avenger of Phoebe Prince, Scheibel then retired, leaving it for her successor to sort out cases that had no real chance of winning.  (How do you convince a jury that teenage stupidity should send them to prison?) And that's just what he's done.  This article tells us that five of the six defendants have agreed with prosecutors to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor in exchange for having all other charges dropped (Boston Globe, 4/26/11).  Those charges consisted of a variety of felonies and misdemeanors. If the deal is accepted by the judge, the kids will likely serve short periods of probation and then be free.  In other words, the prosecution caved.  There was never much of a case there and the single misdemeanor pleas are nothing but face-saving for the DA's office.  They couldn't walk away with nothing, so they walked away with the next worst (for them) thing. One defendant, Austin Renaud, remains charged with statutory rape.  That too is an exceptional charge.  Yes, it's true that Phoebe Prince was under the age of consent at the time the two had sex, if they did.  But so was Renaud.  In those cases, most prosecutors understand that teenagers sometimes have sex with each other and treating the event as a crime is pointless and a waste of public resources.  Statutory rape is intended to punish adults who have sex with children, not children who do. So Scheibel's letting the current DA clean up that mess too.  The linked-to article lets us know that Renaud's lawyer isn't talking to the DA about any deal.  My guess is that he doesn't think there's any way they can convict his client.  After all, what's the evidence against Renaud that's not hearsay? We'll find out about that in time.  Meanwhile, this is yet another sorry chapter in what sometimes looks like the criminalization of everything.  If you're a girl and you send your boyfriend a photo of yourself topless, look out; the police may come knocking on your door.  If you're the boyfriend and you show the photo to someone else, you can count on being charged, likely with a felony. It's high time prosecutors started exercising some of the discretion about who to charge, why and when, that used to be routine.  Criminal law is a blunt instrument.  It was never intended to right the type of wrongs committed by the kids of South Hadley High against Phoebe Prince. That should have been dealt with by parents, school teachers and administrators.  They failed to do so, and they're the ones who should be disciplined for their failure.  But the District Attorney's Office should have stayed out of it. By the recent announcements, they're doing just that - finally.

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waav1Fathers and Families Board Member Robert Franklin, Esq. discussed the outrageous Peter Spitz case on The Curtis Wright Show on several North Carolina radio stations on April 20. To listen to the show, click here.
The outrageous Peter Spitz case is, in a nutshell, as follows:
  1. Mother shoots and kills mother-in-law and shoots sleeping husband, permanently disabling him.
  2. Mother is acquitted by reason of insanity
  3. Mother is being released from custody and can now spend time with their son but father, who has never been found culpable of any wrongdoing, cannot.
Franklin has written several pieces about the case and has been working to help Spitz. To learn more, click here.

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[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Radio host Curtis Wright"][/caption] "[My children and I] shared a life together that the prejudiced court did not want us to share."--Radio host Curtis Wright
North Carolina radio host Curtis Wright, a longtime friend and supporter of Fathers and Families, hosted F & F Board Member Robert Franklin, Esq. on The Curtis Wright Show on April 20. Wright began the show with a devastating critique of the family court system, declaring "I am a single father...I [am] a survivor of the legal system."
Wright (pictured) said: 
The decision to be a single father and to raise my children after my divorce was a decision made by three of us--my two children and myself. We took on that fight together and we were able to win that fight against a prejudiced legal system. waav1 It's a sad situation that takes  place every day in America...I was lucky to survive and escape. My children were lucky to survive and escape, and their lives...were forever changed. We shared a life together that the prejudiced court did not want us to share together, and we will share the rest of our lives and memories together...we were survivors...[In family court] for nothing they have done, fathers are the villain, the three headed monster... [The courts] are not looking out for the best interests of a child. The best interests of a child are to have both parents actively involved in their lives forever... It breaks my heart, and I have worked with people like [Fathers and Families Executive Director] Glenn Sacks and others to expose and bring awareness to these sad stories...[it's about] the rights of children to have access to their fathers and have lives with their fathers...Fathers and Families [is] a wonderful organization...
 To listen to the show, click here.

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Not long ago I quoted Glenn who wrote several years ago about the Lisa Miller/Janet Jenkins custody case, "Ladies, welcome to the club."  He wrote that because Jenkins in every way was the "father" of the couple's child, except of course the biological one.  Miller became pregnant and gave birth to the child.  Jenkins was the doting "dad," there at the hospital, and the family's main breadwinner. The point of calling her the "father" is that, when the two split up, she was the one on the outs.  She's the one who had difficulty seeing the child, she's the one who paid support and eventually, she's the one from whom the child was abducted when Miller decided that sex between women was wrong. So Glenn was spot-on when he pointed out that Jenkins, for one, had come to know what millions of fathers experience every day

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Another day, another dad with a lot to say about the divorce and custody system.  It's amazing how the stories are all so much the same.  Either there's a vast conspiracy of fathers to paint family courts with the same brush or courts in the English-speaking world have an anti-dad bias. In this article the dad is Francis Knize of Wilton, Connecticut (Wilton Villager, 4/28/11).
Divorce is never an easy process, especially when children are involved, and Wilton resident Francis Knize says being a father makes it exponentially more difficult. Knize went through a nasty divorce a few years ago, and, based on his own experience, he feels judges in divorce cases "have an inherent bias against men." "Basically the judiciary has worked hard to erode (father's) civil rights on many levels. In my divorce case my person, property and papers were what I wanted protected, and they were all broken in the divorce. There was nothing I could make a free choice of in my life." Knize said the immediate reaction of the courts is to place children with the mother in the vast majority of divorce cases. "Basically the child remains with the mother right away until further notice, and the father may not see the child for the first year after the divorce," Knize said. "That's unconscionable."
I couldn't have said it better myself.  The anti-dad bias begins at the very beginning and continues until the court loses jurisdiction, usually when the child turns 18. Typically, it's mothers who file for divorce; over 70% of divorces are filed by women.  That's because they know they won't lose their kids.  Researchers Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen found that to be the factor that "swamped all others" in determining who would file for divorce, i.e. who would get the kids.  Mothers know they run little-to-no risk of not getting custody, so they have little hesitation about filing. And indeed, that's just what happens and, with a little creative testifying, they can be sure that dad won't get to see them at all, at least for a while.  Even the barest allegation of domestic violence or child abuse against the dad will mean that, although she's the one asking for the split, he's the one to be tossed out of the family's house. Add a claim of DV to that and he likely won't even be able to access important personal belongings.  If he's a peace officer or member of the military, he can kiss his job goodbye because the DV claim means he can't possess a firearm. Meanwhile, he'll be ordered to avoid contact with his wife and kids.  Thus are the "facts on the ground" created.  Since she now has the kids for the pendency of the divorce, perhaps a year or longer, she's become the "primary parent" by judicial fiat. And of course that means she'll be given custody and child support while he'll get some form of modest visitation.  As we all know, the court will zealously enforce the child support aspect of the order while largely ignoring the visitation thing-y. In short, Knize's right.  The judiciary has worked hard to erode fathers' rights and continues to do so to its everlasting shame.  Custody law and practice to an astonishing degree is an exercise in separating fathers from their children despite the wishes and well-being of both. Knize's got another point too.  He notes that the lower burden of proof in family courts allows charges of abuse - even unfounded ones - to hold sway over child custody decisions.
"I know lots of men who have serious problems seeing their children because women take the stand claiming severe abuse," Knize said.  "They make a criminal kind of charge without having to support it with any kind of evidence...  Women are making claims without any corroborating evidence or proof."
That's eerily reminiscent of the Jeffrey Ruggiero case in which an assistant District Attorney offhandedly said something very similar.  Ruggiero's wife Kristen had lied numerous times in family court to separate Jeff from their daughter.  The ploy worked there, but when her claims were scrutinized in criminal court, she found that the judge there cared about things like perjury.  She was convicted of 12 felony counts stemming from her lies and the ADA commented that she didn't realize she "wasn't in family court anymore." That pretty much says it all.  Most courts require real evidence, not falsehoods; family courts are pretty much satisfied with either. So now there's a bill before the Connecticut General Assembly to try to make claims of abuse real as opposed to fabricated.  Here's the bill itself.
That the general statutes be amended to: (1) institute a presumption of a parent's or guardian's innocence in any proceeding alleging child abuse or neglect by the parent or guardian; (2) require the petitioner to prove a parent's or guardian's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in any proceeding alleging child abuse or neglect by the parent or guardian; (3) require the protection of a parent's or guardian's constitutional rights, as afforded to persons charged with criminal offenses, in any proceeding alleging child abuse or neglect by the parent or guardian; (4) require the dismissal from employment of any municipal or state employee found to have violated the constitutional rights of a parent or guardian in any proceeding alleging child abuse or neglect by the parent or guardian; and (5) ensure that any such municipal or state employee not receive immunity."
The bill passed the Judiciary Committee and now awaits action in the House.  Will it pass?  I've got my doubts.  But whether it does or not, it's a sure sign that people are starting to take notice of the continuing disgrace that are our family courts today.  That children should be deprived of their fathers on the basis of trumped up allegations of angry or merely calculating mothers is not an acceptable.  It's not morally or legally acceptable. And in a country in which almost half of all marriages end up in family court, it cannot be allowed to continue.

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As readers of this blog well know, Japan has long been a safe haven for Japanese mothers living outside the country who wish to abduct their children.  Japan combines a failure to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction with a tradition of almost exclusive maternal custody.  That means Japanese mothers who take their children there do so with impunity. Recently, there's been talk of Japan's eventual signing of the Convention, but as I've also reported, some legal scholars there have expressed doubts that much would change if it did.  That too is because of the almost overwhelming bias in favor of mothers in custody cases in that country. Now this case raises some interesting possibilities (Agence France Presse, 4/16/11).

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Ya gotta love Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott.  He likes to show off what a tough guy he is.  Often as not, that means jailing fathers who have no way of paying the child support obligations they're saddled with.  That's when he's not ignoring their rights to visitation which Abbott supposedly has a duty to help enforce.  But based on his expenditures for child support enforcement and those for visitation enforcement, I'd say he's not much interested in the latter.  Last year I estimated, based on his own figures that his office spends over $270 million per year for child support enforcement versus a little over $500,000 for visitation, which gives us a good idea of his priorities. Yes, Abbott's quite a guy; he's never met a man down he wouldn't kick.  In this case though, he really outdoes himself even if he does have help (Dallas Morning News, 5/2/11). It was just last November that Anthony Graves got a visit from a prison guard in his cell.  The guard didn't tell Graves a thing; he just opened the cell door and led Graves out without even putting handcuffs on.  The two went to a room in the prison where one of Graves's attorneys waited with the news that he was a free man. For the first time in 18 years, Anthony Graves walked out of prison free.  Burleson County, Texas had sent him to death row in 1992 for a murder no serious observer believed he'd committed.  Graves had a solid alibi and, throughout his trial and his long ordeal behind bars, never ceased maintaining his innocence. Late last year, the new Burleson County District Attorney and a special prosecutor said Graves was innocent and should be let go.  Here's how Texas Monthly Magazine described it back then:
At a press conference at the D.A."s office in Brenham--just across the street from the courthouse where Graves"s retrial was to have taken place early next year--(District Attorney Bill) Parham told reporters that he was "absolutely convinced' of Graves"s innocence after his office conducted a thorough examination of his case. Parham was clear that this was not a matter of having insufficient evidence to take to trial; charges were not dropped because too many witnesses had died over the years or because the evidence had become degraded. "There"s not a single thing that says Anthony Graves was involved in this case,' he said. "There is nothing.' 
That was good news indeed; 18 years late, but good news all the same. But that's not all.  The State of Texas has a law that gives compensation to the wrongly convicted.  If a person is convicted who is actually innocent, the state pays him/her $80,000 for each year in prison.  In Graves's case that would mean $1.44 million. Enter State Comptroller Susan Combs, who's refused to pay Graves a penny.  Why?  Well, it seems the judge who signed the order releasing Graves and dropping all charges against him at the request of the Burleson County DA, failed to include the magic words "actual innocence" in her order.  So, according to Combs, she has no authority to pay Graves what the state clearly owes. Remember what DA Parham said.  "There is nothing," to connect Graves to the crime.  When the county District Attorney says that, you know the guy is innocent, but the great State of Texas prefers to hide behind two words. Where's Gregg Abbott in all this?  If you think Susan Combs is being petty, you're just not tuned in to Abbott's wavelength. Has Abbott used his considerable authority to go to bat for Anthony Graves?  Not once.  Has he stepped in to reopen the case and get the proper wording placed on Graves's dismissal?  Nope. What he has done is tag Graves with child support obligations he accrued during his time in prison.  That's only a little over $5,000, but to a man who's just gotten out of prison, it may as well be $5 million.  Graves apparently has a job and Abbott's taking money out of his paycheck every week to pay down the support debt. So yes the State of Texas put Anthony Graves in prison for a crime it knew at the time he didn't commit.  And yes, it now owes him a nice chunk of change because it did so.  And yes, Graves owes child support solely because he was in prison for a crime he didn't commit. And tough guy Gregg Abbott's only response to the whole sorry affair is to garnish the man's paycheck for a debt he should never have have accrued in the first place. No wait.  I tell a lie.  That's not the only thing Abbott's done.  It seems Graves got an invitation to speak at a college near Houston about his experience with the criminal justice system.  The college was so pleased to get Graves that it paid him a modest ($250) honorarium. But Graves never got it.  Abbott garnished that too.  What's next, his lunch money?  Needless to say, Graves had better look out.  He'd better not fall behind on repaying his child support debt.  Gregg Abbott will put a man in jail for that. Thanks to Don and John for the heads-up.

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For 12 years family lawyers who line their pockets on the current system of custody and the domestic violence industry have successfully thwarted bills in the Minnesota Legislature that would create a presumption of equally-shared parenting post-divorce. Well, they're at it again.  Molly Olson's organization the Center for Parental Responsibility has a good bill before the House Judiciary Committee.  The only problem is that the chairman of the committee won't allow it to be voted on.  And time is running out.  If the bill isn't voted out of committee by this Friday, it's dead for yet another year. So I'd like to encourage everyone to contact the committee and demand that the bill be approved and sent to the House for a vote.  The bill is House File 322.  Here's the totality of Olson's most recent message on the matter.  She includes all relevant names and contact information.  Please do what you can to make sure this bill gets a fair hearing. Joint Physical Custody/Equal Shared Parenting House Judiciary Hearing URGENT UPDATE o   Only 4 days left before deadline and still no hearing for vote in House Judiciary o   Call or email House Judiciary Committee TODAY (contact info below) o   Also email House Majority Leader (Matt Dean) and Speaker (Kurt Zellers) REMINDER: we are a 100% volunteer organization - there is no one paid to be working on our behalf - our progress is directly related to how many people like YOU take time to be part of the process. Minnesota Legislation: HF322 – Joint Physical Custody and Equal Shared Parenting SF1168 – Joint Physical Custody and Equal Shared Parenting URGENT - YOUR HELP NEEDED TODAY --- Your phone calls, voicemails, and emails ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE – but TODAY IS URGENT … we need the House Judiciary to hear the bill and vote THIS WEEK to meet the deadline, and so far we are not on the agenda. Call and email all House Judiciary Members TODAY and ask them to hear the bill THIS WEEK. See legislators contact info below. ·     TODAY call and email all House Judiciary Members (see list below) and House Leadership ·     MAKE IT SHORT: In 500 words or less, explain why you care about the issue, why change is needed, how you and your kids were negatively affected by current law, how JPC/ESP will help, and ask them to ask Rep Smith to take a committee VOTE on the bill THIS WEEK – before the end of next week deadline – because the kids deserve change NOW – every year that goes by 50,000 more children in MN are negatively affected with the status quo. Remind them JPC/ESP IS in the best interest of children and the majority of research is on the side of this bill. ·     INCLUDE in EMAIL: Ask them how you want them to vote on HF322. Give your full name, address, email, and phone number in the email. Provide to them a short quote and a link to any key research – see CPR website for articles or you"re your own (under ISSUE: Joint Custody). ·     KEY: don't show anger in your email, it will hurt the cause. You only feed into the negative stereotype. Sadness and disappointment are good to specify. Don't name names or blast judges. You can speak in general terms and still be specific. It's OK to name the county of your case. ·     QUESTIONS: If you have questions or have an idea how you want to help the cause, email [email protected] ·     GET OTHERS TO DO THE SAME: See below "forward to a friend' and email this to others you know who can also call and email. This is what has happened this year: ·     House Civil Law – Informational Hearing (no vote) – Jan 26 2011 ·     House Civil Law – Introduce Bill and Public Hearing – Feb 8 2011 (tabled until bill revised) ·     House Civil Law – Introduce Amended Bill (after input from stakeholders and influencers) – April 11 2011 (bill passes) ·     House Judiciary – Public Hearing (no vote/most members not in attendance) – April 27 2011 (bill tabled) o   Bill now stuck in House Judiciary Committee unless the Committee Chair will hear the bill for a vote. o   Rep Steve Smith has not put HF322 on the committee agenda for a vote this week o   If it"s not heard this week for a vote, the bill is dead in the House o   If it"s not heard this week for a vote, the bill will NOT go to the House floor for a vote this year and it will be delayed until next year o   Rep Smith is giving deference to our opposition ·     Senate Judiciary (Rep Warren Limmer) has made a final decision no family law bills will be heard in Senate this year. o   Your calls have made a difference – he has been bombarded. This will support the effort over the summer to ensure the debate continues to make progress in between sessions and make it a priority next session. The biggest reason the bill is not making progress? Special Interest Groups! o   MN Bar Association – Family Law Section o   MN AAML (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers) o   Domestic Violence Industry What are their objections: They want to leave it to judges to decided based on the "best interest of children;' they want to treat every case like every dad is a dangerous abuser, they claim parents in "conflict' can"t cooperate, they rely on bias research from Australia researcher claiming JPC doesn"t work (they forget to tell legislators that research focusing on DV cases), and more bogus objections just to plant "uncertainty and doubt' in the minds of the committee. The lawyer groups and the DV groups are their to protect their agencies NOT your kids. House Judiciary Committee Contact Information HOUSE JUDICIARY REPUBLICANS (10) – we believe 9 of these will vote yes. Rep Smith is the only no republican vote at this time. Steve Smith (R)? Mound 651-296-9188 ?E-mail: [email protected] Ron Shimanski (R)?Silver Lake 651-296-1534 ?E-mail: [email protected] Diane Anderson (R)? ?Eagan 651-296-3533 ?E-mail: [email protected] Tony Cornish (R)? Good Thunder 651-296-4240 ?E-mail: [email protected] Glenn Gruenhagen (R)? Glencoe 651-296-4229 ?E-mail: [email protected] John Kriesel (R)? Cottage Grove 651-296-4342 ?E-mail: [email protected] Pat Mazorol (R)? Bloomington 651-296-7803 ?E-mail: [email protected] Joe Schomacker (R)?Luverne 651-296-5505 ?E-mail: [email protected] Bruce Vogel (R)? Willmar 651-296-6206 ?E-mail: [email protected] Doug Wardlow (R)? Eagan 651-296-4128 ?E-mail: [email protected] HOUSE JUDICIARY DEMOCRATS (7) So far we thought 3 of these were voting yes for HF322, but that seems to be changing and they seem to be voting in a pack against the bill – contact them –especially if you are a democrat or know these people or live in their district, make an appeal. Sheldon Johnson (DFL)? ?St Paul 651-296-4201 ?E-mail: [email protected] Bobby Joe Champion (DFL)? ?Minneapolis 651-296-8659 ?E-mail: [email protected] Debra Hilstrom (DFL)? ?Brooklyn Center 651-296-3709 ?E-mail: [email protected] Carolyn Laine (DFL)? Columbia Heights 651-296-4331 ?E-mail: [email protected] John Lesch (DFL)? St Paul 651-296-4224 ?E-mail: [email protected] Tina Liebling (DFL)? Rochester 651-296-0573 ?E-mail: [email protected] Carly Melin (DFL)? Hibbing 651-296-0172 ?E-mail: [email protected] HOUSE LEADERSHIP Matt Dean 651-296-3018 [email protected] Kurt Zellers 651-296-5502 [email protected] o   Ask them to insist Rep Smith hear the bill THIS YEAR! o   Let them know it appears there is a majority YES vote on HF322 in House Judiciary. o   Let them know this bill has been worked on for 12 years. o   Let them know it"s a bill "by the people and for the people' and the opposition is the special interest attorney groups who are mischaracterizing the bill and making false claims about it. Please forward this email to others who you think might/should be interested (see "forward to a friend" below). Email not just non-custodial parents, but second spouses, grandparents, affected aunts and uncles, adult children of divorce, and others.

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Red sky at morning?  It may be too early to tell, but recent developments may predict rough seas ahead for the proposed rollback of the shared parenting law in Australia.  Read one article here (The Australian, 5/3/11). As I've written before, the ink was barely dry on the 2006 amendments passed, after a lengthy period of public consultation and input, under the Howard Government, when the anti-dad forces declared them too flawed to stand.  The excuse put forward was predictable - dads are harmful to children, therefore greater father access to children means greater harm to them. That mothers do more harm to children than do fathers according to every credible statistical source is a fact willingly ignored by those opposed to fathers' rights.  The same is true for the fact that the active involvement of both parents in children's lives has been shown time and time again to be beneficial to children. Still, politics being more about power and influence than about sound, fact-based policy, the anti-father forces have managed to get amendments drafted to the 2006 law.  Although they nominally retain the shared parenting provisions of the bill, they ominously expand the meaning of the term "domestic abuse" while also removing court sanctions for false claims thereof. In short, the amendments would take away whatever modest discouragement exists for false swearing.  The obvious results would include increases in false claims walking hand in hand with drops in fathers' custody, already meager.  Indeed, fathers' rights organizations in Australia understand the amendments to be a back-door repeal of the modest rights they gained in 2006. But now this article tells us other complaints have been lodged against the proposal and from an unexpected quarter - the Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant.
"Cases involving actual violence or abuse or the risk of harm to children are precisely those cases that need to be brought on quickly, heard in a timely manner and finalised so that appropriate protective arrangements can be put in place," Chief Justice Bryant said. "It would be most unfortunate indeed if a consequence of the amendments, which are designed to improve responsiveness to family violence, was to place vulnerable children at risk of harm through delay . . .." 
In other words, by dramatically expanding the definition of domestic abuse, the courts will be inundated with claims in cases already decided.  That would mean delays in adjudicating new cases that might involve real danger.  Paradoxically, that would place kids at risk. And that's not all.  The absurdly overbroad "definition" of what constitutes harmful behavior that could result in a restraining order or loss of custody or access is one example.
Family law professor Patrick Parkinson, the architect of the Howard government's original family law changes, argues the new broad definition of violence is still flawed and could be abused.
In his submission he argues the opening words of the definition require that the behaviour complained of "coerces or controls" a family member. He says this is flawed because it does not say that the person accused of such behaviour needs to have the intention of coercing or controlling. "It would certainly be problematic if someone could be held to have engaged in 'violent' behaviour without intending to do so, because his or her former partner felt coerced or controlled," Professor Parkinson argues.
Do I need to state the transparent absurdity of a sovereign nation's actually contemplating passing a law under which a person can be ruled to have "engaged in violent behavior without intending to do so?"  The idea that a father could be ejected from his house and forbidden contact with his children and they with him because he allegedly did something that his wife claims made her feel controlled, borders on the insane. Here is a fact of life for all those who live with others - sometimes they do things that limit your otherwise unlimited freedom.  When the child cries in the night, the parent gets up to give comfort.  Might the parent feel a bit coerced or controlled?  Possibly.  When the husband contemplates spending the family's last dime on another electronic gadget and the wife says 'Honey, we need that money to pay the rent," does he feel controlled?  Maybe so.  But you know what?  That's OK.  It's one thing caring and responsible spouses do for each other sometimes and yes, sometimes it restricts the other person's freedom of action.  And it should.  To call that "violence" is simply beyond the bounds of reason.   To make it grounds to deprive a child of a father would be criminal in a sane world. Into the bargain, the whole concept is flawed.  That's because it originated in a flawed political ideology that held that men seek to control women (women don't do that to men, of course) and they do it through violence. Well, in rare instances, that's true.  And those instances are properly the subjects of judicial action.  But to say that because violence is coercive (even though most of it isn't), then coercion must be violent is (a) factually wrong and (b) a logical fallacy.  That it should be enshrined in law speaks volumes about the societies we've created here in the oh-so-enlightened 21st century. Here (The Australian, 4/29/11) and here (Sydney Indymedia, 4/27/11) are a couple of other articles on the opposition to the rollback of fathers' rights to children and children's rights to fathers under the Gillard Government. Interestingly, in the former article, it's revealed that, far from increasing family violence, child homicides in New South Wales have actually been halved since the effective date of the 2006 amendments.  I suspect that's another one of those inconvenient truths the anti-dad crowd will prefer we overlook.

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This is not much of an article, but click on the audio at the bottom/right of the piece and you'll hear a much more informative interview (ABC, 5/2/11). The article is about a new book that seems well worth reading.  It's called The Dad Factor: How Father-Baby Bonding Helps a Child for Life and it's by Dr. Richard Fletcher who's an Australian academician.  He's a senior lecturer in Health Studies at the University of Newcastle, and head of the Fathers and Families Research Program at the university's Family Action Center. Dr. Fletcher's research has determined that fathers are vital to the healthy development of children right from the start.  He's emphatic that fathers not try to come into their children's lives only when they're old enough to kick a football, but literally from Day 1.
He says in the first few hours after birth, a baby is primed to react to the father's voice which he or she heard when in utero and the way a father interacts with a baby can literally shape the structure of the baby's brain.
The interview touches ever so lightly on things like maternal gatekeeping, the process by which mothers and fathers interact in ways that give power to the mother to decide dad's level of involvement with the baby.  But mainly Fletcher's goal is to convince dads to overcome their hesitancy about their own proper role and their tendency to step back and let Mom be the main parent. Whatever may be the interpersonal dynamic between the mother and the father is not Fletcher's concern.  He's there to exhort fathers to interact with their babies from the very beginning.  According to him, it's vital for the baby's well-being. Fletcher's done a lot of work with fathers and their associations with their children.  What he describes are men who are very dedicated to their children and to being active, hands-on fathers, but who don't know what to do.  Their hearts are in the right place, but the practical details are missing. One of Fletcher's points is that mothers and fathers alike must not see children as "tasks to be done," but as autonomous human beings to be understood and cared for.  One exercise he has them perform is to continually ask themselves "what is the baby thinking now?"  How did he/she experience what the parent just did? That seems like an obvious thing to do, but apparently many parents don't think of it.  Fletcher said he knew a terribly depressed mother whose emotional state improved dramatically just because she stopped thinking of the child as a job to do and started trying to get inside its head and see things from the child's point of view. More importantly for dads, father-child bonding can affect the child's mental, emotional and even physical well-being.  Failure to bond can result in psychological problems later in life. Fletcher also sees a cultural shift toward greater father-child involvement.  He led pre-natal classes for fathers who commonly expressed a desire to be more involved in child care than were their own fathers.  He's at pains to say that the research on fathers and children that's been done over the last decade or so makes it clear that, as we've heard before, "Dad is not just another pair of hands." That is, dads aren't there just to help Mom.  They bring their own vital contributions to childcare.  Generally speaking, mothers and fathers parent differently, each is important in its own way to the child and the two together create a sort of synergy that makes for greater child well-being.
"Fathers have an impact on their baby's brain development and personality."
So fathers aren't just helpers for mothers; they're vital to their child's well-being independent of her and everything else.  For that reason, they need to take an active role from the start. That said, Fletcher warns against the "Superman Approach" in which Dad, if Mom's depressed and not coping, tries to do everything himself.  Like any parent, those dads need help and need to seek and find it.  Fletcher points out that mothers in that situation might not be thrilled for Dad to seek help because his doing so might reflect on her own parenting. Science advances; family law remains behind.  Fletcher has done excellent work.  His research adds to a growing body of scientific data that all points in one direction - the importance of fathers to children.  We now have essentially irrefutable evidence that children need their fathers and that two biological parents provide by far the best environment for the healthy, happy development of children. Meanwhile politics and family law are still finding new, more inventive ways to keep fathers and children apart and to keep all family power in the hands of mothers.  It's like having one foot in the 21st century and one in the Stone Age, except Stone Age parents were probably far smarter about parenting and children than are most family court judges today. Still, my sense is that family law is slowly being dragged kicking and screaming toward greater fathers' rights and the recognition of the need of children for their dads.  Books like Richard Fletcher's help us on the way.

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You know the saying about closing the barn door after the horse is out.  Well, read this story and see if that doesn't occur to you (St. Cloud Times, 5/1/11). Two Sudanese natives, Gatluak Jerweng and Nyachuol Puoch met in 2005 and lived for a time in Iowa and for a time in Minnesota.  Eventually, they had four children together, but never married.  Their relationship was always conflicted and that was exacerbated by the fact that the mother of the children, Puoch, was mentally unstable bordering on psychotic. Unstated in the article is for just how long that was occurring.  Among other things, she had two children by another man who lived in Melbourne, Iowa.  He had custody and when she tried to regain custody for herself, she was denied.  That alone suggests a mother with serious problems going back to when an Iowa court originally gave the father sole custody of their children. Indeed, the attorney for her first two children in her divorce case now says that at the time she had apparent mental health issues as well as parenting problems.  That of course would explain why Dad got custody.  By the time she'd had children with Jerweng, Puoch was barricading herself in the bathroom with the children and hanging blankets over the windows because she believed people were trying to kill her.  She was also abusing the children who were malnourished and showed signs of having been beaten. Throughout all of this, Jerweng repeatedly called Iowa Department of Human Services trying to alert them to the danger his children faced at the hands of their mother.  He reported her abuse four times and talked personally to caseworkers far more often.  All to no avail.   
Court records obtained from Minnesota show Iowa DHS confirmed abuse twice in 2009, but no one requested that the children be removed from Puoch"s home, despite Jerweng"s growing concerns about Puoch"s mental health...
A court order from Marshall County in January 2009 shows a psychiatrist evaluated Puoch and determined she needed placement at an Iowa Falls hospital for her own safety for "depression and psychotic features.' But another doctor, Dr. Robert Stern, evaluated Puoch the same day, and determined she was mentally ill but could make her own decisions about her care, according to Iowa court documents. The commitment case was dismissed.
Because of that, she wouldn't be committed to a mental institution, but what about her care of the children?  DHS didn't seem much concerned despite the fact that one month later caseworkers confirmed another instance of abuse.  Nor did it do anything when, two months later, it received still another complaint of abandonment by Puoch and paranoid behavior. Yet a few months later, she was committed to a psychiatric hospital, but after only three days there, the same doctor said he found no reason to keep her there and released her. Again, the question arises, "what about the kids?"  Or, stated another way, "what does it take to get DHS to see what's obvious to everyone else?" Well, there's an answer to that question.  It took murder. On April 12, 2010, Puoch beat the couple's 22-month-old son Duach to death.  He had broken bones and internal bleeding and was dead by the time he arrived at the nearest emergency room.  Puoch was found guilty of murder and recently sentenced to 12 years in prison last month. Their other children were found to be in the lowest 25% for height and weight, indicating malnourishment. So what we have is a mother whose ability to parent was found insufficient during her marriage to allow her any contact with her first two children.  For the children she had with Jerweng, there were multiple complaints to DHS as well as two findings of psychosis requiring hospitalization.  Into the bargain, there was a father who repeatedly complained that his children were suffering abuse at the hand of their mother.  Finally there was clear, objective evidence of violence toward Duach that far preceded his death plus the malnourishment of the others. Somehow none of that added up to enough to take the children from the mother.  Somehow a concerned and fully capable father was ignored, not only when he called DHS to urge action, but as the most obvious choice to have custody of his children. After all, child welfare agencies are supposed to look first to fathers and other relatives when it's deemed necessary to take children from a mother.  Indeed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families has a handy 107-page booklet instructing caseworkers about the value of fathers to children and how to transfer custody to them. But of course that wasn't done and a toddler was killed because it wasn't. That paternal placement was an option completely ignored should come as no surprise.  The Urban Institute has studied the matter and found that in over half of the cases in which the father is known, caseworkers make no effort to contact him about placement for children taken from their mother. Eventually Jerweng got fed up with waiting for DHS to do its job, so he tried to do it for them.  Before his son's death, he filed suit to get custody of his children, but - irony of ironies - that only made matters worse.
She was pregnant with their fourth child by the time he eventually filed for custody of their children in Marshalltown... Meyer, the attorney, said he believes the custody battle contributed to social workers" reluctance to take action.
"They could have been placed with him. That would have protected them,' he said. "The problem is once an agency finds out there is a civil custody battle, they tend not to want to do anything too dramatic.'
Right.  Who'd want to do anything dramatic like save a child's life?  Particularly when it's your job to do exactly that. What attorney Meyer misses though is the fact that Jerweng's lawsuit isn't the reason he didn't get custody.  DHS hadn't given him custody before the suit and it didn't give him custody afterward.  Suit or no suit, the result was the same. Still, reread that lawyer's statement.  Yes, what he's saying is that DHS failed to do what it clearly should have done months or even years before because doing so would have helped a father get his children from a mother who was unquestionably unable to parent them properly.  DHS knew that taking the children would put its finger on the scales of justice in favor of the dad, so it did nothing. Now that one child is dead, and the mother in prison, the remaining children are finally in Jerweng's custody and doing well.
Shan Wang, the assistant Stearns County attorney who prosecuted the Puoch case, said authorities there filed a child-abuse petition after Duach"s death to protect the then 2- and 3-year-old sisters, Bahn and Savannah.
Those girls and Liah, an infant born to Puoch in July, were eventually placed in their father"s care. The three children now live with Jerweng in Owatonna. Santiago DeFord, another prosecutor, said the children have gained weight and were thriving as of a hearing last month.
Meanwhile, Jerweng understandably is not a happy camper.
Jerweng has told numerous authorities the death could have been avoided if human services workers in Iowa took seriously his attempts to report Puoch"s alleged abuse of the children and alleged history of depression, psychosis and paranoia.
"He repeatedly said to us, ‘I was doing everything I could in Iowa, and nobody listened," ' said Heidi Santiago DeFord, an assistant Stearns County attorney.
Welcome to fatherhood as it's practiced in the U.S. I would encourage him to find a good lawyer and sue DHS.  I expect he'll figure that out soon enough and good luck to him.  But lawyers can only do what they can do.  They don't put horses back in barns.

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Here's another father apparently murdered by his ex-wife (WSAZ, 4/28/11). The facts are still out on this one, but Crystal Seigler Clark has turned herself in to Mingo County, West Virginia Sheriff's deputies and her daughter Chloe has been placed with West Virginia Child Protective Services.  Police believe Clark shot her husband, David Clark to death. His body was found inside his house in Varney, West Virginia on April 25th  Crystal meanwhile had fled with Chloe to Tennessee, but later called to let officers know where she was.  She was picked up by U.S. Marshalls and has waived extradition to West Virginia. Police connect the shooting to the custody battle over Chloe that was just heating up at the time of David's death.  The two seem to have been separated and had joint custody, but conflict had developed over custody of the little girl.
Deputies are charging Seigler with David Clark's murder and they also suspect she abducted Chloe, so an amber alert was sent out Tuesday night. They say the two parents had joint custody of the child, but at least one of them was trying to change that. "I think they was having a little bit of trouble, and we believe a custody battle was about ready to get started,' Chief James Smith with the Mingo County Sheriff"s Office said.
We'll learn more about this case in the near future, but for now a couple of things occur.  First, the article linked to is actually a series of short pieces that take the story as it was first reported and develop it over several days as facts come in.  In all there are some six separate pieces and one goes into some detail about the trauma faced by Crystal's father as he worried about both his daughter and granddaughter. Interestingly though, from reading the pieces, you'd think David Clark had come to earth from a galaxy far, far away.  In six pieces filed on three separate days, not one gives any background on David Clark.  Does he too have parents?  Siblings?  Neighbors?  What do they say about him?  Was he a good man?  An ogre? Why is the deceased a non-person in this story? And speaking of ogres, I suspect that's what Crystal will try to make him out to be over the next few months.  Will it be domestic violence or child abuse?  Dead men tell no tales, so David won't be able to rebut anything she says.  And speaking of domestic violence, note that none of the pieces describes this killing as such.  Of course we don't know yet who killed David Clark, but police sure have their ideas.  And it's likely not just a coincidence that Crystal took the child and fled the state on the same day he was killed.  So it's noteworthy that no article has yet described this as domestic violence and no DV victim's advocacy group has said 'peep' about it. I of course know nothing about either Crystal or David.  He may have been the devil incarnate for all I know.  But the recent trashing of a decent man, Jean Pierre, whose wife drowned herself and his three children in the Hudson River a couple of weeks ago, has me a bit gunshy.  Pierre, you'll recall has been all but convicted of murder by a media that are far too ready to find fault with a dad, the better to obscure who the real killer was - the mother, LaShanda Armstrong. If Crystal Seigler Clark is smart at all, she'll play on that same anti-dad sentiment.  It may be her best hope of staying out of prison.

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You be the judge. I've written those words a good many times over the years.  I'd spell out a situation and say "you be the judge" sometimes to give people a sense of what it's like to judge a case before you.  Sometimes, though I'd use those words to show just how dramatically a judge got it wrong. Well it turns out that Sanford Braver at Arizona State University did the same thing, at least figuratively.  This article tells us that Braver led a team of researchers who inquired into the public's acceptance or lack thereof of the concept of equally shared parenting (Psych Central, 5/3/11). They did a study the article describes this way:
Survey participants in the first study were asked to imagine they were a judge deciding a series of hypothetical cases. In one case vignette, the mother provided 75 percent of the couple"s pre-divorce child care-giving duties. In another vignette, the father provided 75 percent of the couple"s pre-divorce child care-giving duties. And, in the third vignette, the parental couple was described as having divided the pre-divorce child care 50-50.
So Braver, et al asked participants to in effect "be the judge."  And lo and behold
The researchers also found that for survey participants, in most of the custody cases they were asked to decide, they judged that equal custody was strongly preferred, a preference that current law does not generally allow unless the two parties agree...
"The striking degree to which the public favors equal custody combined with their view that the current court system under-awards parenting time to fathers could account for past findings that the system is seriously slanted toward mothers, and suggests that family law may have a public relations problem,' said lead author Sanford L. Braver.
The study will be published in the May edition of the journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law. So it's interesting that when everyday citizens are asked to "be the judge" in custody cases, they demonstrate what the article calls a "strong preference" for 50/50 parenting.  We'll obviously want to get a look at the study itself when it comes out, but in the past, Braver has been one of the most scrupulous and well-reasoned of the researchers into divorce and custody issues.  So I'd be surprised to find any flaws in his methodology. The larger issue of course is the dramatic difference between public preferences and elite decision-making.  I've complained a good bit recently about the gaping chasm that separates the well-established social science on things like what benefits children, domestic violence, child abuse, child custody and the like, from judicial decision-making on those issues.  An impartial observer could be excused for concluding that the judges just don't know the science, or if they do, don't care about it. Well, it looks like something similar is going on here.  Like the gulf between science and family law, there's also one between public desires and court decisions.  I need hardly add that public desires seem to agree with the social science on what benefits children.  About that, only the courts are out of line. Into the bargain, the public seems to have accepted what "gender equality" actually means - that in custody decisions, mothers and fathers be treated equally.  That of course stands in stark contrast to feminist organizations which, with a single minor exception, invariably oppose even the slightest expansion of fathers rights in custody matters.  The same can be said of family court judges and the family law bar. In short, what happens daily in family courts across the country contradicts both sound social science and the wishes of the people.  It's a classic case of elites deciding what's best for the unwashed masses regardless of what we want and regardless of what's morally and scientifically right. Or, as Professor Braver said more tactfully,
"Decision-makers need to recognize the widespread opposition to the current standards that award equal custody only rarely. If they think those standards are nonetheless necessary, they need to be more active in defending and justifying their preferences to the public,' Braver said.
I'd only add that the reason they don't do a better job of "justifying their preferences to the public" is that they have nothing with which to do so.  If there were sound social science to support the award of almost 90% of primary custody to a single sex, don't you think we'd have seen it by now? The social science isn't there.  That's why we never hear a "justification" for that which is patently unjust. Of course Braver was speaking rhetorically.  He of all people knows the social science on child well-being, the value of fathers to children and so forth.  His point was precisely that those who daily deprive fathers of children and children of fathers have no support for what they do. It's not the first time that "the people" showed themselves to be ahead of elites.  Elites always have turf to defend; if they didn't, they wouldn't be elites.  And when you're defending your source of funding or your previously articulated wrong ideas, you're likely to engage in a bit of intellectual dishonesty, or worse. "The people" on the other hand are not so compromised, so they often get it right where elites get it wrong.  They have no "prior commitments." And so it is in Braver's study of decision-making in custody cases. What should be true in custody cases and what is true are like tectonic plates moving in different directions and creating vast pressures as they collide.  I predict an earthquake.

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The Texas legislature has finally seen sense.  I hope Governor Rick Perry does too. As this article tells us, both the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate have passed Senate Bill 785 and it's House counterpart (CBS DFW, 5/3/11).  The full houses, as well as the two committees before which the bills were originally considered voted unanimously for the bills.  That is, to date, there have been no 'No' votes in either house. The bill, if signed by Governor Perry would allow any man the opportunity to terminate his parent-child relationship with a child who's not biologically his.  If signed, the law will become effective on September 1st.  Under it, men will have one year from the date they had knowledge that a child might not be theirs to file suit contesting paternity. Most importantly, the new law would apply to all men both prospectively and retrospectively.  So men who have been paying support for years will be able to go to court and learn whether they are the biological father.  If they're not, the parent-child relationship will be terminated. If the parent-child relationship is terminated because the man is found to not be the biological father, any child support obligation will end at that time.  Any accrued indebtedness or interest will still be owed and will have to be paid. Non-biological fathers such as adoptive fathers or those who consented to artificial insemination by another man are not covered by this law. Here's the text of the bill that's on Governor Perry's desk. What the article makes clear is what this law will not do.  It won't provide compensation for the paternity fraud that led a man to pay for a child not his.  As the article says, Texas compensates wrongly convicted felons for the time they spent in jail when DNA exonerates them, but this bill offers victims of paternity fraud no such compensation. That of course makes a certain sense.  After all, it's the state that convicts a person of a crime, so it's reasonable that the state should pay when the job is done badly.  But it's a woman who wrongly identifies a man as father.  The only state involvement in that is the more or less automatic rubberstamping of the parties' evidence about parentage by the judge. No, if anyone should provide compensation, it should be the mother who failed or refused to tell anyone, either during the couple's relationship or the divorce proceeding that she has reason to believe that the man who thinks he's the dad might not be.  After all, she's the one who knows with whom she had sex and when.  Chances are, she's the only one.  So the burden should be on her to speak the simple truth that no one can be sure, absent genetic testing, who the father is. As the attorney who's interviewed for the article says, this law doesn't do justice, but it stops continuing injustice.  As such, it's a lot better than nothing. Interestingly, the law states that a "parent" may bring an action to contest paternity.  So we can expect mothers with children not fathered by the man who believes himself to be the dad and who want to cut off his relationship with the child he's raised to be trouping into court to terminate his parent-child relationship.  The law is mandatory; it says the judge shall terminate the parent-child relationship. Up to now, the law in Texas has held that, if a man didn't contest paternity in his divorce case, his paternity was res judicata, i.e. decided once and for all.  It didn't matter that he'd been duped; it didn't matter that the mother intentionally kept him in the dark.  He was the child's father by operation of law forever. This law changes that.  Once signed, essentially any man at any time can ask a court for a DNA test and have the request granted.  If testing proves he's not the dad, all his rights and obligations will end.  It's a case of the state's doing what many mothers refuse to do. It's far from a perfect solution, but it's sure a step in the right direction.  Once word of this leaks out, I expect mothers will be just a bit less willing to tag the wrong guy with "paternity," because they'll know he could end it at any time.  That would leave the child without a dad and her without child support, at least for a time.  The law is a none-too-subtle suggestion to tell the truth. It might also discourage mothers from marginalizing "dads" in their children's lives post-divorce.  After all, a man who thinks he's the dad will be a lot less likely to terminate his relationship with a child with whom he has a close relationship than one with whom he doesn't.  So to keep that child support flowing, she'll want to encourage a good father-child relationship.  The new law should assist in that. It's also fair. If you want to write Governor Rick Perry a nice, respectful email encouraging him to sign the bill into law, click here and follow the easy instructions. Thanks to John for the heads-up.

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So I just reported on Dr. Sanford Braver's latest study showing that, when asked to judge hypothetical custody cases for themselves, his subjects showed a "strong preference" for equally-shared parenting.  Their custody arrangement of choice was 50/50. Like so much social science, that should give legislators and judges a nudge in the ribs; it should give them a gentle hint that what they've been doing all these years is wrong.  Decades of social science have shown that kids do better with two parents in their lives than with only one.  The funny thing is that Braver's subjects seem to have gotten the message. 

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This is a pretty good, no-nonsense article about custody law in Illinois (Chicago Now, 4/29/11).  It's obviously written by divorce lawyers with plenty of experience with clients in custody battles and how custody law and practices play out in that state. The authors' first goal is to dispel some apparently widespread misconceptions about the concept of "joint custody."  That term would seem to imply a certain equality, but of course it doesn't.  And that's the source of the public's misconceptions.
Joint custody in Illinois does not automatically or necessarily mean that each parent gets 50-50 time with the children. While 50-50 time sharing can and often does occur, it does not define "joint custody".

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With this guy at the top, it's no wonder we don't know anything about domestic violence.  OK, he's only second from the top, but it's close enough for government work, don't you know. This article is reprinted from Glamour magazine and it's an interview with Vice President Joe Biden about domestic violence (Huffington Post, 5/6/11).  Well, it's not exactly about domestic violence.  It's more about the myth of domestic violence that's been repeated interminably for 40 years and that the interviewer, Joe Biden and his wife (also interviewed) have all accepted without question. It's about 1,500 words and, by the end, knowledgeable readers are left with the burning question "Can this guy be this dumb?"  Or maybe he's just lived his life as if all his actions were directed by a GPS system manufactured by feminists.  I can just hear it: "Turn left at the next corner.  Read Catharine MacKinnon's "Toward a Feminist Theory of the State."  Seriously, this is the Vice President of the United States and he volunteers this:
This attitude of how society views women as chattel -- that's the biggest thing to overcome.
Really?  Chattel?  It's a fascinating theory.  I suppose it would be better if it had a single iota of anything to support it.  But for Biden, it's not only self-evident but "the biggest thing to overcome." Chattel?  Let's see, this is a society in which women have more of the good and less of the bad than men in almost every imaginable category.  Longevity? Check.  Education?  Check.  Exemption from military conscription?  Check.  Exemption from combat if they do serve?  Check.  Lower rates of homelessness?  Check.  Higher rates of health insurance coverage?  Check.  Lower rates of suicide?  Check.  Numerous laws like VAWA and sexual harassment laws that are designed specifically to protect women but not men.  Check.  Fewer killed or injured on the job?  Check. And that doesn't even mention family law and adoption law that seem as much as anything to be enacted for mothers, by mothers. I could go on forever about how those areas of law privilege women and mothers. So maybe the Veep could explain to us ignorant savages how he figures that women are seen as chattel in this society.  Someone should tell him to lay off the Kool-Aid. From someone who's somehow convinced himself that women hold the status of domesticated animals, I suppose it'd be too much to ask him to make sense about intimate partner violence and predictably, he doesn't. As I said, it's a 1,500-word article, more or less, and in all those words, not one even hints that men can be victims of DV.  Reading it, you could easily conclude that the Vice President of the United States, knows little or nothing about domestic violence in this country.  And remember, this is a man for whom the issue is important; VAWA is his signature piece of legislation.  So you'd think he'd know something about the 36 years of social science that shows that women perpetrate domestic violence as often as men do and initiate it more often. But no, not a word.  He's equally ignorant about what domestic violence actually is.  Again, reading his words and those of his wife, you'd easily believe that DV is all "battering" as the true believers in the DV establishment never tire of claiming. Again, Joe Biden is flat wrong.  The great majority of domestic violence in this country is non-injurious.  Study after study shows that.  One large government study showed 61% of women and 75% of men said they'd received no injury whatsoever in the DV incident inquired about.  Figures from Scotland and Canada are similar.  The simple fact is that most DV consists of a push or a shove or even less - not good behavior perhaps, but also behavior we need to keep in perspective. Joe Biden has no intention of keeping anything in perspective.  For him we need more laws and regulations like expanding Title IX to ensure that women (but apparently not men) on college campuses are safe.  We're all for safe campuses, but Biden nowhere explains how that's going to be accomplished and why men aren't entitled to benefit. And speaking of men, Biden lets slip one offhand remark that lets us know that his basis for all of this isn't domestic violence but misandry.  He claims to have spoken to "men's organizations" thus:
 I'd say, "How many of you work in a big law firm, and what if one of the partners was gay and every time you left the office he'd pat you on the ass? How many of you would report it?"
Did you notice?  That's right, even in his hypothetical example, he can't show a woman acting wrongly.  He can't even conceive of asking "and what if one of the partners was a woman and every time you left the office she'd pat you on the ass?"  For the Vice President of the United States, women are never wrongdoers; only men are.  So the rest of the interview is all of a piece.  Men are perpetrators, women are victims.  It's straight out of the Catharine MacKinnon playbook. I'd say it's close enough for government work, but it's nowhere near that good.  What it is, is good old-fashioned American anti-intellectualism, a classic case of disdain for the clear teachings of science because they contradict his false but cherished beliefs. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor of Glamour, here's the link to do it. If you'd like to teach the Vice President a few basic facts about DV, click here. As always, keep it short, informative and civil.

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The Oregon House of Representatives has passed House Bill 2183 by a 37-23 margin.  The bill would make accusations of child abuse that are known to be false when made a crime punishable by a fine of up to $720.  The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.  Read about it here (Statesman Journal, 5/4/11).
Proponents said the bill is intended to keep people from maliciously filing false reports in the midst of a divorce, custody fight or other domestic conflict. "Accusing somebody of something as serious as child abuse tarnishes their reputation in a way that is unique," said Rep. Wally Hicks, R-Grants Pass.
Legislators opposed to the measure expressed concern that it would have a chilling effect, causing people who suspect abuse but aren't certain to hesitate before acting.
That opposition is answered obviously enough by the requirement that the reporter know the claim to be false.  That requirement simultaneously gives the bill's legitimate targets - false accusers in custody cases - a fairly easy way to avoid conviction.  After all, it should be an easy matter for a mother to say "I see signs of child abuse" as opposed to "He's abusing the child." Since the law is aimed at parents who try to gain an advantage in custody cases with false claims of child abuse, fines by criminal courts won't necessarily affect custody decisions at all.  The whole problem with these claims of abuse in custody cases is that family courts fail to require actual proof of them before making their rulings.  So the most threadbare claim can effectively separate a father from his child, potentially for life. If family courts required real, verifiable evidence of abuse instead of relying on naked allegations, bills like HB 2183 would be unnecessary.  If it passes, what effect will it have on family courts that don't show much interest in the truth or falsity of abuse claims now? I suppose the answer to that question is "some."  Surely if a criminal court convicts a  mother of a false abuse claim, the family court would take that into consideration in deciding custody.  But if it had already made temporary orders keeping the father away from the child, might it also not ignore the conviction and simply keep the child with the mother?  That pretty much points up the problem with trying to get criminal law and criminal courts to do what family courts should do as a matter of course.  When allegations of abuse are made in the course of a custody case, family courts should treat it just as they would any other matter to be proved.  They should require objective, verifiable evidence from the accuser and give the accused a full opportunity to answer and assert his innocence. The fact that family courts not only act on unproven allegations and effectively place the burden of proof on those accused to prove their innocence is more than just a procedural wrong.  It's a tried-and-true method of cutting fathers off from their children and children off from their fathers. That family courts don't know not to do that already won't, I predict, be changed by a law making false allegations a crime.  Family courts have all the power they need to deal with false swearers right now.  If they were going to behave sensibly, they'd be doing so. Still, the bill, if passed by the Senate and signed into law, would certainly be better than nothing.  For one thing, it would let a different court - a non-family court - adjudicate the matter.  That alone would make the law worthwhile. But into the bargain, HB 2183 would suggest to family courts that the State of Oregon tolerates false swearing less well than they do.  It might actually spur change on the part of family law judges.  The law's rebuke to family courts is pretty thinly veiled.  It fairly shouts "you're not doing your job, so we'll try to do it for you." So by all means the Senate should pass this bill.  It may help to quell false allegations and it may help convince family law judges to do what they should have been doing all along. But I won't hold my breath.  My guess is that this is merely a first step on the road to still greater efforts at dealing with the epidemic of false allegations of abuse used to gain an advantage in child custody matters.

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I thought so. Just a few days ago I did a piece on Anthony Graves, the Texas man who did 17 years behind bars, much of it on death row, for a murder prosecutors knew when they tried him he hadn't committed.  Just to add insult to injury, the State of Texas is now refusing to pay him the compensation it clearly owes him for his wrongful conviction.  Worse still, super tough guy Attorney General Gregg Abbott is garnishing Graves's paycheck for past child support and interest all accrued while he was wrongfully imprisoned courtesy of the State of Texas. I speculated that Abbott had it in his power to waive Graves's child support obligation and it turns out I was right. Here's what Texas attorney and State Representative Harold Dutton says about that in another similar case.
Dutton said the attorney general has the authority to lift Brandley's payments. "I think someone should apply some common sense, but that doesn't seem to be the case in the attorney general's office," Dutton said.
The "Brandley" referred to is Clarence Brandley and if you think Anthony Graves has problems, he's in hog heaven compared to Brandley.  Read about it here (Houston Chronicle, 5/7/11). Clarence Brandley was once a sort of celebrity in Southeast Texas.  He won that renown for being the victim in one of the worst cases of railroading a man into prison in the state's history, and that's saying something.  Remember, we're talking about Texas. Back in the 1970s, a 16-year-old girl was killed at her high school in Conroe about 50 miles north of Houston.  Brandley was a janitor there and immediately became the county's prime suspect.  That had nothing to do with his involvement in the crime which was nil and a lot to do with his race which is African-American. Brandley was duly convicted on the shakiest of evidence including perjured testimony and sentenced to die.  He spent years on death row, but his family never believed he was guilty and attorneys eventually proved it.  Here's how the judge hearing his appeal described the state's conviction of Brandley.
In 30 years on the bench, "… No case has presented a more shocking scenario of the effects of racial prejudice, perjured testimony, witness intimidation (and) an investigation the outcome of which has been predetermined," state District Judge Perry Picket wrote about Brandley's case after a hearing in 1987.
That again is saying something.  After all, Montgomery County that convicted Clarence Brandley borders on San Jacinto County whose sheriff throughout the 1970s and 1980s was renowned for waterboarding suspects.  So Pickett's statement carries a little weight. Brandley was eventually exonerated and is today a free man, but that came long before the law providing compensation for innocent people convicted by the state. Just like Graves, Brandley owes child support and he did back in the 1990s.  And just like Graves, he owes child support and interest solely because he was in prison.  Remember, he first went inside in 1977.  He's now 59.  His "children" for whom he's paying are 39 and 35. And his lawyer back in the day, was Harold Dutton, who, in 2007, introduced a bill in the legislature to require the state to make child support payments for any father it wrongly convicts and sends to jail.  The bill passed and was enacted into law, which is why Harold Dutton says Gregg Abbott can relieve Clarence Brandley of his payments any time he wants to. Of course he can do the same for Anthony Graves, but he's refusing to do so. Now, Graves only owes about $5,000, so he's not to badly off.  Brandley's another story.  Brandley is one of those unfortunates who's caught in the low payment/high interest bind.  He's been paying almost every year since his release from prison, but in 2008, he got laid off. He sold everything he owns and moved in with relatives.  He's essentially penniless, and the support, interest and fees just keep building up and up.  The state sends him notices, but
"I just tear them up," said Brandley, who has lost nearly everything he owns.
He currently owes over $12,000, but with no job, the amount keeps going up.
Court records show that at one point Brandley's court-ordered monthly payments of $130 failed to cover interest payments that reached $357 per month. His debt was growing at a faster rate than his payments.
A state district judge in 2003 reduced the total to $22,000 from $73,000, attorney general's office spokesman Jerry Strickland said. That figure was still more than triple the $7,000 in back child support Brandley owed at the time of his arrest in 1980, court documents show.
So Brandley was paying when he was arrested in 1977.  He fell behind in prison for obvious reasons.  By 2003, he had paid for 13 years since his release and his indebtedness was triple what he owed in child support when he was arrested.  And his children have been adults for almost two decades. In short, Brandley has paid more than he's ever owed in child support.  If all he had been required to pay was support, he'd have been free of the burden long ago.  So, in effect, he's bankrupt and imposing on relatives because of the interest charged by the state that wrongly convicted him and sent him away so he couldn't pay.  His inability to pay meant he incurred the interest. Add to that the fact that Texas has a law requiring the state to pick up the payments for those parents it wrongly convicts, but refuses to honor that obligation to Clarence Brandley, and you have a situation that cries out for someone with the power to do so to just say "Enough!" That person of course is Gregg Abbott, which means Brandley can likely expect to be jailed again soon. Disgraceful. Thanks to John for the heads up.

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To all the mothers out there, we wish you the very best and happiest of days.  To all those with mothers, be sure to call her, hug her and above all, let her know that you see and appreciate all that she's done for you over the years. With warm regards from all the gang at Fathers and Families.

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"Poor, poor pitiful me, poor, poor pitiful me... Woe, woe is me."                                             - Warren Zevon She's baaack!  Like it or not, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto is still compulsively trying to get us to understand why she upped and left her husband and two young children years ago.  She's so obsessed with justifying herself that she's written many articles, a book and appeared on TV talk shows trying to do the job.  Apparently it's not working.  Apparently, whatever demons shout "Bad Mommy!" inside her head cannot be exorcised in the ways she's tried. But she keeps trying, to the detriment of all of us.  This time she recruits her own mother to the task even though her mom is deceased and therefore can't take part in the Great Work of saving her daughter from the consequences of her own choices. The title of this latest article is "The Pain Behind My Mother's Flawless Facade." (Salon.com, 5/5/11).  The lead-in breathlessly tells us "She was a housewife so perfect I thought I could never live up to her example.  Then I realized how she had suffered." Wow.  That's intriguing.  Pain and suffering; how better to entice a reader?  What will she reveal?  Her father's mad ex-wife in the attic a la Jane Eyre?  Murder?  International crime?  I could hardly wait. But Rizutto doesn't deliver.  Too much of her rather long piece is - surprise, surprise - a rehash of her own decision to leave her husband and kids and how she now lives down the street from them, sees them every day, etc., so her original abandonment is really OK, you see. And a lot of it is about her memories of her mother who was a stay-at-home mother to Rizutto and her siblings.  To hear her tell it, Rizutto's mom sounds like a really good one.
My mother was always there. She was a 1950s housewife, living in the '60s and '70s. Whatever my siblings and I needed, she gave: hand-sewn prom dresses; homemade Christmas ornaments; she pulled up a stool and offered step-by-step advice (through the locked bathroom door I refused to open for, oh, an hour) about how to insert my first tampon. When I confessed to her, as a child, that I had stolen candy bars from a local store, she helped me believe life could go on and be righted, and it was that safety, that lying together in my bed, that ensured I would never steal anything again. When I was 15, and broke my arm falling off a runaway horse, careening straight downhill behind my house in the rain, I didn't cry -- it didn't even hurt -- until I laid eyes on my mother. She was also the mother my friends wanted advice from; many of them didn't have their own parents handy since they were away at boarding school, but she was more than a convenient replacement. She never judged anyone, no matter what they admitted to her. Despite the fact that I had two siblings and a father, I believed that her life was, entirely and exclusively, devoted to me.
She sounds like a great mother - energetic, loving, understanding, resourceful, patient.  Rizutto thought so and so even did her friends. And when Rizutto grew up and considered having children, her mother encouraged her to do it.
My mother also seemed to be imparting a coded wisdom when she counseled me to have kids: "I would hate to see you miss out," she often told me.
We've now completed about 80% of the article, so where's the pain and suffering?  Where's the excitement, the titillation? Well, her mother never told Rizutto about any pain or suffering; her father did.
She struggled, he told me. As a young bride and mother, barely 20 when I was born, she wanted to see the world, but instead she found herself suffocating in the roles of mother, wife, sister, daughter. Our nuclear family moved to New England, where it got worse: There were many winter days when she gave up trying to leave the house entirely because as soon as she finally got three toddlers into their snow clothes, one of us would have to pee. She spent her days alone with us, and even ate with us alone because my father had to supervise the dining room at the boarding school where he taught. She tried, and failed, and kept trying to find herself; my father recounted a litany of her attempts: correspondence course, school plays, ceramics, weaving...  Nothing helped, until we were finally all in school and she began writing for the local newspaper.
That's it?  That's the pain?  The suffering?  Yep, that's it. What Rizutto describes is what's doubtless felt by every parent at one time or another, particularly stay-at-home parents.  As much as they love their children, there comes a time - many times - when piles of dirty laundry and spilled milk and peanut butter and jelly smeared on the kitchen table have no appeal.  And yes, when you're a stay-at-home, there are times that that can seem to be all there is - dirty diapers from here to the horizon. But here's a secret; that's not suffering.  It's just one of the many sometimes difficult, onerous things adults - all adults - deal with.  For adults, life is not a matter of always doing what you want to do when you want to do it.  You have commitments to other people and to things that are long-term.  And when things get rough or just dull, adults know that this too will pass. Having a husband who supports you and the kids is not suffering.  Neither is having healthy children who grow into healthy, productive adults.  Having to stay inside on snowy days is not suffering. And let's not forget, although Rizutto apparently has, that her mother never described childrearing as suffering.  Was it a bed of roses?  Probably not.  But just reading her description of her mother, it's impossible not to see a woman who brought real love to the task of raising her children.  Again, even Rizutto's friends felt that.  No one who's terribly unhappy gives that kind of love. It's sad that Rizutto recruits her deceased mother to her defense of what her mom would never have done - abandon her family.  But Rizutto is on a mission to absolve herself of her guilt about her decision, and nothing will dissuade her.  And if that means distorting the reality of her mother's life, so be it.  If it means distorting the meaning of suffering, then Rizutto's equal to that task too. The larger picture is the attack on motherhood as a snare and a delusion that so many have preached for so long.  For decades now, we've been told that motherhood is stultifying drudgery, but women don't seem to be getting the picture.  They still sign up for the motherhood program by the millions every year, much to the distress of those who claim that women only want to have careers. So there will, I fear, always be a market for works like Rizutto's.  Anything, regardless of how dubious, that paints motherhood as loathsome, will be welcomed in a certain quarter. Fortunately, most women know better.  Rahna Reiko Rizutto's mother certainly did.

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Here's Joel Leydon on fathers in Israeli family courts (Israel News Agency, 4/16/11).  He's a professional reporter in Tel Aviv and, to say the least, he brings remarkable perspective to fathers' rights - or the lack thereof - in Israeli family courts.  Put simply, it's a war and fathers are losing. Amazingly, Leydon's set-up is a terrorist attack on a Tel Aviv hotel in 2002.  Leydon was having dinner with friends three blocks away when an explosion rocked everything around them.  He grabbed his reporter's notebook and headed in the direction of the explosion as the sound of sirens filled the air. When he arrived on the scene, the police and firefighters had already removed the living from the destruction and only the dead remained.  Twenty people died there that day and 180 were injured. By any measure it was a horrifying scene.  It is Joel Leydon's illustration of what's done to fathers in Israeli family courts.
Many years later, a massacre of another sort is taking place in Israel. A massacre of loving, caring relationships between fathers and their children. For in the democratic State of Israel, thousands of good dads have had their parenting rights stolen from them. All it takes is an angry, psychotic spouse to make an unsubstantiated claim of child abuse.
If Leydon has a rosy view of family courts in the U.S. and England, it may be because things are worse in Israel.
If a claim of child abuse was made in London or New York, social works and forensic psychologists would be dispatched in hours to protect the child. To ascertain what had happened and if the charges were false to protect the father from a ruined relationship with his children, to protect his reputation.
Would that it were so.  But in Israel Leydon tells us that family courts have no money to investigate claims of abuse, so they're pitched to the child welfare agency that's similarly short of funds.
While this paper file bounces between family court in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa or Kfar Sava and child welfare in Holon, Ra'anana, Beer Sheva or Hadera the father is told that the only way that he can now see his children is in supervised visitation centers (merkaz kesher). Many fathers will not bow to this humiliation order by a callous family court and opt to simply walk away. Leaving thousands of children without fathers in Israel.
I hate to tell Leydon, but change a few names and that's an altogether familiar story.  False charges of abuse are used here as there to create "facts on the ground."  Those include fathers prevented from seeing their children during the pendency of the divorce which inevitably results in the mother's getting primary custody afterwards. Leydon's story of David Marcus is familiar to all who follow fathers' adventures in family courts, again with the names changed.
One father in Israel, David Marcus, an immigrant from Chicago living in Haifa, tells his story. This reserve officer in the IDF who saved 53 children in Haiti and advises the Israel government on public affairs has been treated no less than a criminal.
It all began because Marcus's son told him his mother was hitting him.  Marcus reported his ex-wife to the child welfare agency, but didn't want the children taken from her.  That started a campaign by her against him. That included being stalked and beaten in the presence of his son by private detectives and perjured testimony hired by his ex who earns $2 million a year.  Marcus contacted child welfare again and was told to hire a forensic psychologist for which he has no money. Marcus cites the phenomena that are so familiar to family court watchers everywhere in the English-speaking world.  The gender bias of the child welfare agency, the interminable investigations and examinations that, even if they determine a father's innocence and good parenting, take months and sometimes years to complete.  During all that time, he is separated from his children.
Even if the father is able to find the moneys for these professionals, months go by that we do not see, hug or care for our children. PAS - parental alienation syndrome sets in. The children lose interest in a father that they do not see and fathers are harassed into finding a comfort zone free of private detectives and threats of prison.
In short, what mothers bent on revenge can't do themselves, the system of child custody is happy to do for them. For his part, Marcus understands that
Every child deserves and needs both parents. Joint custody and equal, shared parenting urgently need to become the norms of Israel society.
To that end, two Israeli organizations, Fathers4Justice Israel and The Coalition for Family will make their way to Geneva next month to acquaint the delegates to the United Nations Council on the Welfare of Children with the many barriers family courts place between fathers and their children.
Whether it is a suicide bombers belt going off or going to a school to pick up your child and being told that you can't - both are massacres of love and relationships that can never be replaced.
Yes, the metaphor is over the top.  But that's what people are driven to when patent injustice is met with indifference, ignorance and smugness. It's something we in the U.S. are all too familiar with.

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Effective legislative advocacy requires an active, professional citizen lobbying corps. Our Citizen Lobbyists meet with their legislative representatives and their staffers to build relationships and educate them about the many problems with our family law system. Under the direction of our lobbyists and legislative representatives, Fathers and Families has developed a Citizen Lobbyist Training Program. All Fathers and Families Citizen Lobbyists have read, understand, and follow the instructions and program laid out in our Citizen Lobbyist Training Primer. If you are interested in being an F & F Citizen Lobbyist, simply click here and fill out our form, entering "Citizen Lobbyist' in the "How I can help' section. Important Links Our Citizen Lobbyist Training Primer is here. For Massachusetts Volunteers: Our Massachusetts onesheet includes contact information for all members of the important Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary and the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, as well as a link to where Massachusetts F & F supporters can find out who their legislators are. For California Volunteers: Our California onesheet includes contact information for all members of the important California Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committees, as well as a link to where California F & F supporters can find out who their legislators are. For Ohio Volunteers: Our Ohio Onesheet includes a list of the contact information for all members of the important House Judiciary and Ethics Committee, as well as a link to where Ohio F & F supporters can find out who their legislators are. Together with you in the love of our children, Glenn Sacks, MA National Executive Director Fathers and Families

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